Putting the Net into the Work

Yesterday I picked up on a thread from Tom ( SiliconValleyWatcher) Foremski, to the effect that content creation is not a solo sport. But current business norms — permanent employers who keep info workers in cubicles, and feed them steady paychecks and health plans — are proving difficult for large media firms to sustain. So why would startups emulate them? That leaves the question: how to organize new media more efficiently?

Though the idea of a freelance, or “elance,” economy is several years old, no firm template exists to replace century-old employment norms. But people are thinking about how to reorganize business. For instance, please look at MIT scholar Marshall Van Alstyne’s paper entitled, The Rise of the Network Organization. I won’t pretend to have read, much less grasped it all, but the title suggests that while the how of reorganization is being worked out, the where is apparent — work will reorganize via the Internet.

Conferences and groups are forming to put the flesh and bones on this network-centric work model. I bookmark them here to start identifying the names, players and directions.

In April, for instance, the Future of Work Congress brought together some interesting people in the fields of information technology, human resources and facilities management.

Next week at Harvard University, the Symposium on Social Architecture will:

“bring together the leading lights of the social software and social media space to discuss … social technologies, tools, applications and publications that are allowing individuals to connect, create, collaborate, and communicate.”

Still sound fuzzy? I have yet to look in the crystal ball that wasn’t. But the evidence of a shift to net-centric work abounds. Consider this report about a new study from IDC about the importance of instant messaging in the business setting:

“In the next few years IDC expects IM, once the plaything of teenagers, to continue to grow into its role as a substantial business collaboration application.”

So the changes are coming. The software is emerging. Tomorrow I want to talk about some of the social and policy dimensions of the shift. Meanwhile, lest you have any doubt of the need for new business models, at least in media, please scan this quick but broad-ranging summary of media fortunes by Chris ( Long Tail) Anderson.

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media